The United State (U.S.) Attorney General Eric Holder now announces his plan for reducing sentences for lower level drug traffickers being held in prisons, sources including Politico are reporting.
The Justice Department said that the average cut in length of prison terms would be around one year, according to a report from Politico reporter Josh Gerstein. This news isn’t a huge surprise, considering U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he wanted Holder and the U.S. Justice Department to back an idea that would loosen up some of the focus on low level drug dealers to continue with the efforts of the war on terrorism. Today at the U.S. Sentencing Commission, Holder will announce his plans for a change in the system recommended by a panel back in January of this year, according to Gerstein. About 70% of federal drug trafficking convicts currently serving time could have their sentences reduced under this plan.
Interestingly, according to Gerstein’s report, the change would impact those busted with moderate amounts, while small and large amounts would likely not get the reduction. Holder reportedly shared his testimony with the Associated Press (AP) that harsh sentences should be reserved for violent and dangerous offenders and that an “overreliance” on incarceration is having unmeasurable costs to society. SunHerald of the Biloxi-Gulfport and Gulf Coast area of Mississippi reported that this strategy is part of a movement to reform federal sentencing policies, which have had the effect of incarceration for an inproportionate amount of minorities and individuals living in poverty.
As Holder announces his plan for reducing drug trafficker sentences for these moderate amounts of drugs people were busted for, the federal government has yet to announce its strategy in combating drug abuse in the country. The Obama administration has shown that it can be lenient toward the marijuana experimentation going on in state governments regarding both medical and recreational use. There won’t be vote on this issue by the commission until April but Holder will be advising the feds not to oppose defense motions seeking the lower sentence based on his proposal. The reported goal would be to cut 6,550 inmates in the system over the next five years.
Holder also previously advised federal prosecutors and investigators not to prioritize these types of low level drug crimes. Obama has also cited a need to make reforms in the justice system when it came to the war on drugs in America. He said he was concerned about the rate of incarceration and what it was doing to many young men in the U.S.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the federal guideline would go from about 6.5 years to 5.5 years on average for 100 grams of heroin for example. Judges can always judge the crime from their own perspective however and set sentences that are higher or lower than the federally recommended prescription. Senate Judiciary Committee member, Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) warned the change will mean serious drug dealers would be released from prison and commit even more crimes. There are other critics of the plan Holder announces for reducing drug trafficker sentences, but only time will tell how this will play out in society.
By Rob Lawson
Wall Street Journal